BATAVIA, N.Y. -- Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who has been diagnosed with cancer three times in the past five years, will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb at the 2018 ESPYS in July.
Kelly, 58, continues to recover from March surgery to remove oral cancer and reconstruct his upper jaw. The former Buffalo Bills star first had surgery to remove squamous-cell carcinoma found in his jaw in 2013 and later underwent chemotherapy in 2014 when the cancer returned in his maxillary sinus.
The award, named for former North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano, has been given at the ESPYS since 2007. While battling cancer in 1993, Valvano gave an emotional acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award that included his now-iconic words, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
Kelly announced Monday at his charity's annual golf tournament that he had been selected for the award and will attend the ceremony with his family.
"God willing, I'll be there," he said.
"As people out there now, when you have cancer, you never know what tomorrow holds. When I was diagnosed for the first time, it scares you. Second time, even more. Third time, I don't even worry anymore. It is what it is. If it comes back, it comes back." Jim Kelly
Kelly will undergo a follow-up surgery June 21 and said Monday he will not be able to eat solid foods until September. Kelly is expected to be screened again for cancer three months after his March 29 surgery.
"As people out there know, when you have cancer, you never know what tomorrow holds," he said Monday. "When I was diagnosed for the first time, it scares you. Second time, even more. Third time, I don't even worry anymore. It is what it is. If it comes back, it comes back."
Kelly, who played for the Bills from 1986 through 1996, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. He led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances -- all losses -- from 1990 through 1993.
Shortly after his retirement in 1997, Kelly's son Hunter was born with Krabbe disease, a degenerative nervous system disorder. Hunter Kelly died in 2005.
"People talk about this 'Kelly tough' part," Kelly said Monday. "Yeah, it is. But after a while, even when you're strong like that, you sometimes look and wonder why all this continues to happen. And then, to be honest with you. I know why. I've been through a lot. Faith is my No. 1. I know why I'm still here. I know why I'm going through (it). It's to be able to go and tell other people going through similar things never to give up."
Kelly will become the second former Buffalo Bills player to receive the Jimmy V Award. Former tight end Kevin Everett was honored in 2008 after suffering a neck injury in a 2007 game that left him temporarily unable to move.